This past year saw significant investment in sustainability initiatives in Indinapolis as well as throughout central Indiana. Though these investments weren't dramatic, they better position the city to address a changing future that likely includes higher fuel costs and increasing pushback against tax and fee increases.
On the transportation front, the region reaffirmed its commitment to the bicycle as a commuting vehicle with the completion of new bicycle lanes and the downtown YMCA bike hub. Combined, these investments make bicycle commutes into the downtown region a viable alternative to the automobile.
The Indianapolis Cultural Trail also nears completion as the year ends. The Washington Street segment is now done, allowing area residents and Super Bowl visitors a pleasant pedestrian connection from Lucas Oil Stadium to Monument Circle and other downtown destinations.
This year also saw the completion of the "greening" of the City-County Building in downtown Indianapolis. The administrative seat of local government is now one of the greenest buildings in the country.
In spite of these successes, much remains to be done. The region has made no progress on a transit solution, nor has it been effective in attracting residents to the center city. The city was recently ranked as America's "second emptiest." Ironically, a healty, vibrant urban environment would create its own demand for bus service, which could serve as a sustainable base for a regional transit system. It's long past time for the city of Indianapolis to put the same level of energy into neighborhood revitalization that it has put into changing the downtown area for the last 30 years.
As we look to 2012, it's in government's interest to continue to promote sustainability in spite of blowback from residents who see such initiatives as frivolous. Reasonable upfront investment that leads to savings over many years is smart and, done properly, will position Indianapolis as a great place to live, work and play going forward.